A Ku Klux Klan rally and counter demonstration drew more than 1,000 people to the Minnesota state Capitol Saturday, and a heavy police presence apparently helped head off any violence. Fewer than 50 Klan members spoke from the Capitol steps, and their message of white supremacy was largely drowned out by opponents.
A member of the Ku Klux Klan addresses a rally at the Minnesota state Capitol Saturday. Michael McQueeny of Mercer, Wis., the organizer of the rally, set the tone. Listen to his remarks. (MPR Photo/Tim Pugmire) See more images
FORTY-SIX MEN DRESSED IN HOODED, WHITE ROBES OR BROWN SHIRTS with swastika arm bands stood defiantly on the steps of the state Capitol waving Nazi and Confederate flags. The members of the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the National Socialist Movement took turns blasting various racial groups and calling for a pure white race.
Michael McQueeny, a grand dragon of the KKK from Wisconsin and the rally organizer, set the tone of intolerance.
"How long can the white race continue to deny and attempt to cover up the fact that the world we live in resembles a horror film? Every day crime in America is getting worse, and vicious crimes by Negroes are so common that most people have become immune to the crime that exists around them," McQueeny said.
McQueeny and others shouted through a bullhorn and public address system, but the chants of an estimated 1,200 anti-Klan demonstrators prevented most observers from hearing the speeches. Earlman David of St. Paul, an African American man in the crowd, said he was disappointed he couldn't hear what the Klan members were saying.
"I wanted to hear them speak, I think they have a right to speak. I don't think there's anything wrong with knowing where the racists stand. It's their position, and to some extent it's preferable to them being the type of covert racists whom you can't spot because they have on their suits or casual clothing. At least they identified themselves and I like that," said David.
Klan organizers billed the rally as a recruiting event. They actually had no opportunity for contact with anyone who might have come to hear their pitch, but they did hold banners displaying their organizations' phone numbers. Ken Bishop of the Aryan Nation said the rally also was an exercise of their constitutional rights.
"We came to Minnesota to see if the constitution was in fact valid, or if it was null and void. Many of you have sought out to scream us down. Well then, you've proved that you're enemies of the constitution," said Bishop.
About 75 state troopers stood between the Klan and their opponents. Many more police stood by away from the demonstration. The Department of Public Safety says four demonstrators were arrested and one person was treated for dehydration. A few eggs were thrown, but no one was injured.
St. Paul resident Earlman "Hoss" David said he would have liked to hear what the KKK had to say. Listen to his comments. (MPR Photo/Elizabeth Stawicki)
After the rally, anti-Klan protesters were declaring victory. Spokesman Mike Huber of the group "Can the Klan" says more people than expected participated in opposing the KKK and its racist agenda.
"The turnout showed people are willing to come and stand up. Even some people have been speaking publically saying that this was going to be a violent demonstration. I think we proved that it wasn't and people weren't going to be scared by those scare tactics," said Huber.
Huber says Can the Klan is planning to hold ongoing public meetings to discuss racism. He says they will be better organized the next time a group like the KKK comes to town.
In addition to the activity at the state Capitol, more than 100 people gathered at Central High School in St. Paul for a Peace Celebration, organized by Mayor Norm Coleman. Coleman and Police Chief William Finney urged the crowd to work for racial justice and harmony. The event also included music and children's activities.